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Another adventures with squirrels

February 10, 2010

Dear Editor:

(In response to,"Six armed men vs. a single flying squirrel," The Citizen, Feb. 6., page 7). Since squirrels are rodents, they have the ability to leap distances, many times their body length. A squirrel is often referred to as a rat, with a bushy tail. Rats also have the ability to leap long distances. (Superman could leap farther and higher, but he wasn't real!)

I want to relate the tale of another adventure with squirrels in the town of Jonesville, Mich. around a year ago. Jonesville is in the vicinity of Jackson, to the south of it. The owner of an outbuilding on his home property had some of his collection of phonographs, records, and radios stored in it. The building was around 100-years-old, and was not just a warehouse for his collection, but a place for the artifacts to be kept in good order. The electrical system in the building was done in conduit (Thinwall pipe), for maximum safety. There was, however, a run of Romex cable, a.k.a. non-metallic sheathed cable, about 12 feet long, running to a light somewhere, a later addition to the building.

Romex is named for Rome Cable Company, of Rome, NY. It dates back to around the early thirties, and is used universally, in residence wiring. In my own house, which I wired myself, there are a few thousand feet of the stuff.

The owner of the building wasn't aware, but squirrels had found their way into the upper structure of the building, and had nested there. The squirrels discovered the Romex, and proceeded to chew on the insulation, actually eating it. At one point, when a squirrel got down to the bare (and live) copper conductors in the Romex, a puff of spark and smoke resulted, frying the squirrel, and setting its fur on fire. While it might be thought that such a short circuit should trip a breaker in the building, it takes far less than the typically 15 ampere rating of the breaker, to cremate the squirrel. Needless to say, there was a bad fire in the building, and a lot of the guy's collection was lost. The fire marshal in Jonesville told the owner of the place that a squirrel's fur is greasy, and burns very easily.

If you should have squirrel infestation, best to engage a professional trapper to get rid of the animals. Once they adopt a location for nesting, ridding your place of them is a real nightmare. In a multiple story house, they might easily get into the joist area between floors....and chew on the wiring. I've known of friends who had that very problem. There are precautions that can be taken to prevent squirrel infestation. A call to the local fire station could help steer you into some good ideas.

Doug Houston

Ortonville